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Home » Culture and Criticism

7/31: Gone Girl

Submitted by on January 7, 2015 – 7:09 PM8 Comments
Photo: Merrick Morton / 20th Century Fox

Photo: Merrick Morton / 20th Century Fox

I really wanted to like Gone Girl, and I thought I might reaaaaally hate it, because I gave up on the book 15 pages in.

"Everyone's an insufferable twat," I told my sister-in-law when I gave her copy back to her, and she asked if it would help to know that that's the point. I thought about it; it didn't help. Fiction is full of people you wouldn't allow to use your bathroom, after all. Everyone in Gatsby is a toad. Any Shakespearean protagonist who isn't drunk or a depressed weasel is incapable of shutting the fuck up for five minutes, and you don't "like" characters in Ford Madox Ford's work, you just hate them less than characters like Florence. Goddamn you, Florence. …Anyway, it's possible to write a character who is hateful or a C-minus ethically and still make spending time with him/her appealing, but for whatever reason, Gillian Flynn could not get that done for me with Amy Dunne. Five-tool off-putting, that lady.

I liked Gone Girl a great deal, in the end. It held my attention with both hands for its entire running time. I liked the performances a lot, with one exception, and while I didn't care for what Neil Patrick Harris did with Desi, Desi isn't a character so much as a set of avenues convenient for the plot to turn onto, assembled into a man shape…one example of the ways Gone Girl falls apart a little bit after the end credits. Another: if Amy's (Rosamund Pike) disappearance is national news, an ongoing tabloid story, why doesn't anyone recognize her when she's "dyed" her hair maaaaaybe three shades darker? Why, for that matter, is she socializing with strangers if she really wants to stay gone? You could argue, and I would, that for a sociopath like Amy, it's almost more important that everyone know how brilliantly she set herself up to get away with it than it is that she actually get away with it — but that doesn't really jibe with the ending, where she's content with an audience of one. Well, two, counting the future spawn, I guess.

Another: it's not going to stay an audience of just one. Again, Amy's disappearance is a huge story; she's already a public figure, to some degree (a foundation for her bent-ness that's deftly done and not overplayed later in the story). She gets kidnapped by Desi, slashes his throat with a box-cutter, et cetera and so on…and Detective Rhonda (Kim Dickens, and I wish she and 'Go (Carrie Coons) would have a show where they drove around and solved crimes together while drinking coffee with bourbon in it, with occasional guest appearances by Tyler Perry) is on Nick's side now, but shrugs that there's nothing she can do to prove that Amy rigged the whole thing from soup to nuts. Okay, maybe there's nothing she can do, though as Couch Baron noted at lunch today, her giving up on it is not consistent with Rhonda's character prior to that scene — but hello, we all know what happened once Serial gained critical mass in the culture. You think a swarm of Redditors isn't going to boil that carcass down to the bones? The story wants us to think Amy's an evil genius, and it's half right, but if she's not smart enough not to get rolled by two codependent hillbillies?

So, it isn't a perfect egg, Gone Girl, but it's fun. It moves right along, it has wonderful darkly funny bits (the literal crickets at the vigil; "we're from Winnipeg," somehow exactly the right place to hail from if you want to shut a talkative stranger down), it got me thinking about all sorts of things, from what we assume about the marriages of others to what we assume about our own, to why movies have such a hard time shorthanding a solid romantic relationship without using sex. And they don't have to; it's not that it's a poor shorthand, and this isn't a quibble with GG. But think about the ways of intimacy in…The Normal Heart, say, and how seldom you see that kind of private moment in a relationship in movies, because fucking is way faster to do what looks like, but isn't always, the same thing. Just one of the things this movie got me wondering about, and that's the sign of a keeper to me.

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8 Comments »

  • Krissa says:

    I'm actually surprised by this and might now see the movie – I read the book after getting it in a cheap Gyllian Flynn set on my Nook and kind of held my nose the whole time. Flynn's other books at least have semi-likable characters. Gone Girl just…yes, everyone is a twat. Everyone! The entire "brilliant" plot of Amy's also just seemed full of holes even for me, and I am not any kind of crime buff. I don't understand how this became such a hit.

    Maybe it's actually better as a movie.

  • Beanie says:

    I made it through this book, even though I hated it, because I recognized my sister in the character Amy. Nobody believed me about her when she was six, and only a few with their own experiences believe me now.

    Being human, I thought my situation with her was unique; the book helped me to understand that crazy is everywhere, and not always obvious.

    That being said, I really didn't want to spend a couple of hours remembering why I'm estranged from my family, so I skipped the movie.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I really liked the movie, firstly because I called Rosamund Pike right away as a perfect Amy and so felt very smart, and secondly because they showed that Amy may be smart but she ain't brilliant.

    She's entranced by her own (well earned) bitterness, by her narcissistic parents using her to create a public dream-child that disappoints as it grows up, and her own obsession with authenticity. She's also clearly sociopathic and a good planner–she just LOOOOOOVES planning because it's an outcrop of the constant ego-centered fantasy that is her emotional life. How she planned to kill herself and have her body found and "then they'd be sorry?" Tom Sawyer was cooking up that scenario a hundred years ago.

    But she's also sheltered. She doesn't think she is, she thinks she's sophisticated, but she's never dealt with real, hardbone survivalist type psychos. She's used to manipulating her familiar society tropes and when she's out of her depth she doesn't even realize it. She doesn't reorient until Desi proves to be a dead end (hee) and she's back among familiar trappings.

  • ferretrick says:

    Well I think the business with the hippies just shows Amy's weakness, namely overconfidence and ego. She IS very, very smart dealing with people from, well, her spoiled, upper middle class socio-economic background. Not so much with the real street smarts-it would never occur to her that two codependent hillbillies could be a danger to HER, Heroine of the Story, Star of Her Own Movie. That thought just wouldn't enter Amy-brain. And-everybody's human. She's socializing with strangers because just about everyone needs to talk to someone about something-not necessarily that she needs everyone to recognize her brilliant revenge against Nick, that she's content to just be between them. But she still needs to socialize generally.

    I haven't seen the movie yet, so can't speak to Detective Rhonda dropping the case in the movie, but at least in the book, if I remember right, she was pretty much told drop it or lose your job. Not sure if that happened in the movie, but that would be more consistent with her character.

  • JenV says:

    Ben Affleck perfectly captured the stumble-fuck, intensely unlikeable Nick Dunne. You kind of WANT to like him, or at least feel sorry for him, because Amy is so terrible, but you can't because he's SUCH A MORON.

  • K. says:

    "But she's also sheltered. She doesn't think she is, she thinks she's sophisticated, but she's never dealt with real, hardbone survivalist type psychos."
    Yep, the most interesting scene in the movie (didn't read the book, though I saw the "she faked it" thing coming) is when she gets rolled by the hillbillies, and the girl points out that she doesn't believe Amy has ever been hit before – because of course she hasn't, because her set doesn't hit. And she's grasping at straws trying to pull some sisterhood shit, asking if the male hillbilly (hate that term but can't think of what else to call him) put her up to it, and homegirl's like "Naw, chile, I put HIM up to it." Amy just gets owned by these two people that she sees as beneath her, and it's kind of great.

  • Mingles' Mommy says:

    I LOVED the book. Didn't see the movie, though, so I'm enjoying the reviews above.

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